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What is wrong with being a purist?

Don(Wyziwyg)T 29 Jan 05 - 07:40 PM
DADGBE 29 Jan 05 - 07:55 PM
DADGBE 29 Jan 05 - 08:17 PM
toadfrog 29 Jan 05 - 08:59 PM
Bill D 29 Jan 05 - 09:45 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Jan 05 - 01:15 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 30 Jan 05 - 04:55 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 30 Jan 05 - 06:01 AM
John P 30 Jan 05 - 08:06 AM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 30 Jan 05 - 08:58 AM
Amos 30 Jan 05 - 09:32 AM
Jim Tailor 30 Jan 05 - 09:36 AM
Big Mick 30 Jan 05 - 11:56 AM
Bill D 30 Jan 05 - 12:35 PM
Richard Bridge 30 Jan 05 - 02:01 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 30 Jan 05 - 02:27 PM
GUEST 30 Jan 05 - 03:36 PM
RobbieWilson 30 Jan 05 - 04:31 PM
Strollin' Johnny 30 Jan 05 - 04:41 PM
Bill D 30 Jan 05 - 04:46 PM
Goose Gander 30 Jan 05 - 05:38 PM
EagleWing 31 Jan 05 - 04:43 PM
nager 31 Jan 05 - 05:30 PM
Richard Bridge 31 Jan 05 - 06:21 PM
Amos 31 Jan 05 - 06:26 PM
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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 07:40 PM

If you refer back to my post, you will see that I referred very specifically to singer/songwriters writing in the folk idiom, and with the same subject matter. I would think that makes it pretty clear that I am not talking about pop, pop folk, or folk rock. This removes the examples that you gave without further discussion or analysis. Most of what I write is folk tempo and style, and written about what I see and experience with the accent on humour. I also sing a number of traditional songs, some unaccompanied, and carefully chosen songs written by others. I perform mostly in folk clubs, and the audiences generally seem to appreciate what I do.

So, my question is this:- If I am not a folk singer, what exactly do you people think I should call myself. I've been doing this since 1965, and it's only in the last five years or so that I've had people telling me I'm not a folk singer.

There are times when I could almost say to hell with it and take up bowls instead, but I care too much about the music to do that.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: DADGBE
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 07:55 PM

This has been an interesting thread indeed! What wonderful comments from Art, Kytrad and so many others. Having been accused on various occasions of being too purist and not purist enough at other times, I guess that I'll wade in at this point.

That river of music seems continuous, on-going and contiguous with human history. It has never stopped and has its origins wherever there are people. It may be the what defined us human better that any other measure.

The mistake I have so often made is to select one spot on the river to define as the moment of 'purity'; that moment in time to which all the other moments must be compared.

I love Irish fiddle music but have been told that guitar isn't traditional enough to play along. Yet, the violin is an Italian import to Ireland, the guitar's from Spain, the accordion German.

Ultimatly, we will never find purity. We will find music we like: Music that connects respectfully with what came before us and modifies the old music with new insight.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: DADGBE
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 08:17 PM

Damn! I hate it when my brain works slow and my fingers work even slower.

That should have read: "It may be what defines us as human better than any other measure."


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: toadfrog
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 08:59 PM

Dick Greenhaus almost always says what I wanted to say, and says it better. Or Art Thieme seems to, although he also waxes poetic enough so I can't always understand him.

But try this. There are good singer-songwriter bits. There is truly fine pop music. "Bottle of Wine" is a truly fine singer-songwriter thing. It isn't "folk music," though. The music in "Cold Mountain" was very fine music. And I'm extremely grateful to the people who made "Cold Mountain" for calling it Rock and Roll, not "folk music." Fine rock and roll music it is. It is not what people listened to at the time of the Civil War, and doesn't pretend to be.

If I am a "purist," it is not because of some theoretical belief about "folk music" or "traditional music." It is because listening to a song, or a singer, pretending to be what it is not is like listening to somebody scrape their fingernail across a blackboard. When some high school music teacher writes and sings a song about how he/she is an experienced and battered old miner/shellback/convict and knows all about life and suffering, it is phoney and offensive because the writer does not share the life experience or musical tradition of the subject, and immediately falls into bathos and sentimentality. Bob Dylan is a particularly vivid example, because he is a talented poet and an excellent singer. But he spoils all that by being a Capital-P Phoney and pretending to be what he never was.

I listen to, and sing, traditional music to try and get into the head of the person who wrote and sang the song, and feel what that person must have felt. I sing for the love of singing, and I don't try to impress people.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 29 Jan 05 - 09:45 PM

well, Don T..if I heard you, I might indeed say you were close to the folk style and tradition. I know Craig Johnson, who has written a couple of things that I thought WERE trad the first time...his tunes, style, choice of topic..etc..make him very much "in the tradition", and although humor, especially if topical, like Tom Lehrer or Tom Paxton, dates the material, the treatment and style CAN be similar to older stuff. I'd have to judge each song or performance individually, but if a good bit of it fit the list, I'd have no complaint about you billing yourself as 'folk'. If, as you say, you DO include traditional songs, then you at least KNOW which ones are traditional...I have been to open mike sessions where people just wanted to be in front of a mic, and knew nothing earlier than Elvis, The Beatles, and Dylan, and to whom The Kingston Trio were as 'folky' as they'd ever heard.

Without perspective, the issue can't even be discussed.

Do you have CDs or anything one might hear?


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 01:15 AM

well.. my chosen name here.. kind of gives my position away..

until the age of 13 or 14 i grew up equating folk
with sunday school and church music..
and a very clean cut uncle who'd wear a suit and tie to family xmas parties
and insist on halting all festive fun while he strummed a guitar
and sang 'there was an old lady who swallowed a fly'
and inflicted similar cronic boy scout favourites..
c'mon it was the swinging 60's..
even i as early as 5 years old knew i prefered the beatles
and freddie and the dreamers
[hmmm.. now which was the better band..??]..
and that folk music was boring and crap.

around 1972 ..at the same time as i was buying alice cooper and david bowie lps..
i discovered folk rock courtesy of top of the pops,radio 1, and the old grey whistle test..

this somehow then lead me to exploring the local library for
'trad' folk records; and live town hall concerts from the likes of brenda wooton..
and getting an acoustic guitar for xmas,
and lots of 'encouragement' from my xmas partypooper folkie uncle..

then when i was 17 punk rock exploded !!!
and i got my first electric guitar with humbuckers and a 120 watt amp..
and played in a band that even shocked and appalled college kids
my own age.

but i still listened regularly to pentangle and jack the lad
[errr.. and donovan..]etc.. and borrowing 'topic' lps from the library;
and had a girlfriend who shared my interest in nights out to candlelit wine bars,
entertained by a solitary singer guitarist in a dark corner..
and local folk clubs.

I dont remember much detail from that period in my life,
but i do know i never had the courage to get up and play or sing
in front of the folkies at the clubs..
even though i had no problem at all with being loud and
outrageous on stage with my teenage band..

i honestly have no memory of why, or what trauma if any,
has caused my amnesia..
maybe there was something really daunting and intimidating about
those old folk clubbers..????

but i stopped going to folk clubs, and have rarely been near one since the very early 80's..


so many thanks for this thread..

i'm a recent new member of mudcat..
and debates like this one are a positive reminder
of why i was glad to have stumbled across this board
during a random links search for info about a song..
and why i decided to join and look in now 2 or 3 times everyday.
Mudcat is just what i need while i evaluate my own commitment and approach to 'folk'.
its and ongoing process of 'work in progress'..

i'm staring to get an idea of mudcat culture & personalities
and key issues of concern..

and find this a very educative and stimulating place to visit..

hope i've not drifted too far off subject..
but me purist..???
i've got a head swimming with ideas for 'older time' songs i connect with off cds,
and how i feel i need to interpret them for my own pleasure
and creative fulfillment;
with ANY instruments & sonic tools i have at hand in my home computer 'studio'..
at the moment with no idea or concern at all
if any one else will ever hear the results.

theres a couple of local pubs i can go to for 'acoustic'
singer sonwriter & blues sessions
.. but i dont get much fun or enjoyment from that to justify
the expense and effort of going too regularly..
if i could drive and did'nt have to rely on inadequate overpriced public transport,
i'd rather travel further to find more 'authentic' singers and instrumentalists..
..errr.. so maybe i am a purist..????

its certainly not easy being agnostic...


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:55 AM

What a great look at the dynamics that created so many, if not all, of us that hang and converse here. I'm here too much probably, but having too much time on my hands these days gives me the excuse I need to show up here so often. Thanks to all for making it such a satisfying place to be.

Art


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 06:01 AM

Thank you for that, Bill, that's the word which has been conspicuously absent, Perspective, which changes, of course, depending upon the point from which it is viewed.

My first ten years were spent singing almost exclusively traditional material, so I do know the difference. Then I wrote a comic song, which was regularly taken to be trad, and I had to own up to authorship each time. From that point I continued to write, not, I hasten to add, ersatz mining songs, but songs about what happened in my own life, and to the people around me. I'm afraid that my reaction to stupidity in beaurocrats, and officialdom, is to take the piss, rather than complain, or get angry, hence the mainly comedic nature of my work.

I do indeed have a CD, which, for copyright reasons has only my own songs, plus two composed by personal friends, who have given their permission. There may shortly be another CD of live performance.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: John P
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 08:06 AM

Hmm . . . wouldn't it be interesting if we could illustrate our comments by uploading an mp3 or two to a website somewhere? It would give us the perspective, allow us to talk about real songs instead of theoretical situations. Does anyone have the technical expertise and time to set something like that up?

Welcome to Mudcat and to this discussion, punkfolkrocker. I liked your story about how you came to traditional music. I think there's been whole threads in the past about how people came to the music they play. Maybe we need another.

John P


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 08:58 AM

Easy being an agnostic?

Well.......I don't know really.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 09:32 AM

The litmus case in my mind on this issue is the ballad of Darcy Farrell, which was written in the 1970's, but had enough of the phrasing, language and melodic traits typical of a 19th century porch ballad that it fooled me until I looked it up. Now, of course, it seems "obvious" but I cannot say why that it is a modern song. In the final analysis, though, the critical traits for me are a certain non-commercial genuineness, born out of human experience. Certain of John Denver's songs seem to meet the test, and "City of New Orleans" does as well, seeming just as germane and natural as "Good Morning, Mister Railroad Man" from a hundred years earlier.

Maybe the real test of a folk song is whether it is human enough to induce time-travel!! If I recall correctly, "Days of '49" was not written by a Forty-niner, but was a commercial entertainment creation in the days before radio, written for beer hall performance. But it evokes the time it sings about without flaw.


A


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Jim Tailor
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 09:36 AM

Farrow


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Big Mick
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 11:56 AM

To answer the original question ..... nothing.

Mick


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 12:35 PM

John P...about the MP3 idea...sure, it's not really hard to put a file on a web site. My own ISP gives me room to post stuff...20 megs, I think, and a couple of years ago, I actually did a (bad) recording of me singing a song so someone could get the tune.

But...just for comparison and scholarship, it wouldn't be hard to post all or parts of various songs to illustrate points. If you have to go from an LP to a tape to a .wav to an MP3, it might be awkward for some, but it's not always that complicated, as often one can just find examples already on the WWW.

I saw, for example, someone who had a collection of 120 versions of "Amazing Grace"...(too much time on their hands?)...and right now, somone is posting many, many versions of old Child ballads...(probably some are illegal, but everyone has to come to personal terms with THAT situation)..and there are sites like Honking Duck and Rose's Country Music Archive....etc., that ARE legal.

so...I'd be willing to offer ideas on the technical side of the process if it seems like a good idea...


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 02:01 PM

Please tell us where someone is posting many many versions of Child's ballads


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 02:27 PM

You're right Big Mick, the answer is "nothing", but wouldn't it have been boring if we had all said just that.

Ho Hum!

Don T.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 03:36 PM

Once more, the original question was not the thread title it was Can any of you AGB's out there tell me why I'm wrong
For one thing, you're wrong because the rest of us are not AGB's and don't appreciate the put down.

I go to folk clubs to hear folk music, but ancient English song is only one part of that. Last night I went to see Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy. I would not question their credentials as folk artists or their place at my local folk club but they finished with "Aint No Sweet Man Worth The Salt of my Tears""Black Muddy River" from Norma's 1996 album. There was no clash with the traditional English songs they had done most of the evening and I did not hear any one who went to th Folk Club express any disappontment.

Toadfrogs dismissal of people writing about things they have not experienced is precious. One of the things that folk music has done over the years is told the stories which might otherwise have faded from memory completely. When Eric Bogle writes about Gallpopli it helps keep in the mind of new generations the horrors of that time. He may not have been there but "the band played waltzing matilda" is a good folk song and to suggest that singing a song written 200 years ago is real but writing about something you have read about, heard about and looked into is phoney is just laughable. Again, last night the support act, the excellent John Richards, sang a song which told of the Public Hanging of a local man and I was glad for the history lesson. Few of the traditional songs about death were written by anyone who had experienced it for themselves.

BillD suggests that only everyone else should define themselves further because his little corner of the garden is the only one which is truly folk Might it not be easier to accept what the range of music which the world understands as folk and, if he wants to, JohnC bill himself as "pure English Traditional music." and get together with those who seek purity. Meanwhile the rest of us can go to our folk clubs and get on with keeping alive folk music old and new.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:31 PM

Sorry Hadnt realised no cookie.
The guest above at Waterson and Carthy was me
love Robbie


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Strollin' Johnny
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:41 PM

What is wrong with being a purist? Absolutely nothing at all. However it's a shame that the 'Purist's' mind is closed to the excellent material that's been written over the past 40 years or so. Must be a miserable existence in those blinkers.

Still, whatever floats yer boat mate.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Bill D
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 04:46 PM

The ballads are being posted in newsgroups...you can look at the lists here , but you have to use whatever you might be signed up for to actually listen to any of them... (My server keeps files like this for 30-40 days, whereas my former server kept them for maybe 3 days, so it all depends on where you are and what you pay for)


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Goose Gander
Date: 30 Jan 05 - 05:38 PM

You have 'folk clubs' in the UK? We don't have them in Southern California, unless you count coffee houses where anyone with an acoustic guitar can mimic Lenny Kravitz or Jewel. Sure, there are Irish bars that sometimes have music, but it's all "Whiskey in the Jar", etc. (not that there's anything wrong with that). At this point I'd welcome anything, purist or impurist.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: EagleWing
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 04:43 PM

Leadfingers said "It seems to me that far too many people who qualify for the 'purist' label in Folk simply havent opened their ears and their minds to enough good music !!"

Just a reminder - the thread was originally not about purists criticising other people's music but about the AGB criticising purists and using that word as a perjorative term.

I refer to another thread (about starting a folk club) where Lynne was warned to avoid "traditionalist" - it's the same thing. People always accuse traddies or "purists" of being narrow while displaying their own narrow views.

I sing mainly traditional and traditional style songs. I have been called a traddie in the perjorative sense. Usually by people who stick to their own particular style and rarely actually listen to traditional style singers. In the words of a traddie type song "who's the fool now?"

Frank L.


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: nager
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 05:30 PM

pejorative I think is the correct spelling.
But what do I know, I am not a purist....


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 06:21 PM

Thank you for the link.

As luck would have it, my sound has just gone down and I fear I feel another format C looming....


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Subject: RE: What is wrong with being a purist?
From: Amos
Date: 31 Jan 05 - 06:26 PM

pejorative

 


SYLLABICATION:
pe·jor·a·tive

PRONUNCIATION:
  p-jôr-tv, -jr-, pj-rtv, pj-

ADJECTIVE:
1. Tending to make or become worse. 2. Disparaging; belittling.

NOUN:
A disparaging or belittling word or expression.

OTHER FORMS:
pe·jora·tive·ly —ADVERB


 


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